District 518 passes Nobles Home Initiative
WORTHINGTON — The District 518 Board of Education joined the Nobles County board and Worthington’s city council in voting unanimously in favor of the Nobles Home Initiative during its regular meeting Tuesday night at Worthington High School (WHS).
During the Tuesday meeting, Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC) Manager Abraham Algadi presented the Nobles Home Initiative to the board.
Through the program, any new housing development would receive five years of 100 percent tax abatement.
“We can’t become what we want to be remaining what we are,” Algadi said during the presentation. “This can fix the housing problem in Worthington.”
Within the first year, an estimated $5.5 million worth of construction would take place with the home initiative, according to Algadi. That would include 40 multi-family units, three to six condo-style units and four single-family homes.
Some discussion and questions were brought up by the board about the initiative.
“Obviously water is a big issue around here, and bringing in 500 new households obviously generates a higher demand for water,” said board member Steve Schnieder. “How will it affect the community if we put a larger strain on that?”
Kevin Donovan, who serves on the WREDC board and is a commissioner on the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light board, addressed the issue.
“We currently bring in water via Lewis and Clark from the Lincoln Pipestone water system,” Donovan explained. “We brought two outlets to town and are currently purchasing 250,000 gallons a day.
“We’ve kept the control without raising anyone’s rates; it’s working fine,” he added. “I don’t foresee, as a commissioner, that it will be a problem.”
Another concern addressed was whether the initiative would be brought to all 20 townships in Nobles County.
“This program will be offered to any partner that is willing,” Algadi said.
Board member Brad Shaffer addressed the WREDC board about taxes remaining the same throughout the initiative.
“My understanding is taxes won’t be raised, and that the land that these properties will be built on will stay at their same current tax rate,” Shaffer said.
Algadi confirmed that as the idea of the initiative.
As to where these properties may be built, Algadi speculated that the west side of Worthington would be the likely locagtion.
If the initiative is passed, Algadi stated that an evaluation process will be implemented to see if it is really working.
“We’re recommending a three-year window for developers. ... If they develop within that three-year period, then they have five years for the tax abatement,” Algadi explained. “At the end of that three-year window, we will evaluate its impact in terms of how many housing starts it had, did it really change the flat number we’re at, and did it make any difference in accomplishing our goals.”
Board member Scott Rosenberg asked why developers would choose to go through the Nobles Home Initiative and not through tax increment finance (TIF) housing.
“One of the main things is the speed of the process,” Algadi said. “You don’t have to wait 18 months to get to know whether you’re funded or not. After that 18 months — and we’ve experienced this ourselves — they’ll tell you, ‘Whoops, sorry, we don’t have money for you.’
“So this is a much more expedient way of doing things,” he added.
Schnieder once again addressed the WREDC board and school board about his thoughts on the initiative.
“I came back to Worthington 31 years ago, and the housing market hasn’t changed from what it is today,” he said. “We have a serious housing problem with this community. It would be irresponsible to our community for us not to address it.”
Ultimately, the board passed the initiative, and Algadi and the WREDC board can start working on bringing housing to Worthington.
In other events during the meeting, Scott Burns, Worthington Middle School Interventionist, made a presentation to the board describing the achievement gap that the middle school is facing.
Burns displayed a graph showing the achievement gap between Caucasian students and students of color.
A graph showing the number of middle school students who are meeting the standards in reading showed that 65 percent of Caucasian students were meeting the limits while only 18 percent of Hispanic students, 20 percent of African American students and 14 percent of Asian students were meeting the standards.
Burns also talked about the importance of adding another interventionist.
“We want to make that achievement gap smaller,” Burns said. “We have a great demand of students that need help, but we don’t have enough services.”
A motion to approve 14 new staff members, including an interventionist, was passed during the meeting.
A gymnastics cooperative with Adrian schools was also passed on a 4-2 vote to allow students from the Adrian school district to join the Worthington district’s gymnastic team.
Board members Rosenberg and Shaffer voted against the motion.
“I think that this will take opportunities away from Worthington kids, and we’ll lose some of our own students,” Rosenberg said.
Superintendent John Landgaard made an announcement on the high school boys’ hockey team.
“Right now, the numbers are not looking too good, and we’re going to have to make some decisions on whether or not we continue to run our own program or if we try and make a cooperative with Windom,” Landgaard said.
A decision on that issue will not be made until next month’s meeting.
Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.